One of the things I love about our church is that we are blessed to have multiple individuals who are gifted to preach and teach God's Word. It was not always that way. In fact, in each of my first two years as the Lead Pastor of Calvary, I remember preaching 49 out of 52 weeks if my memory serves me right! Of course, when you are a very small congregation with one pastor this is often the only option. I am truly grateful for our sweet congregation for so graciously sitting through my preaching week after week those first few years! However, I was convinced then, just as I am now, that this model of having one pastor who preaches week in and week out, year in and year out, is not the wisest, healthiest, most biblical or sustainable model for a pastor or congregation that desires to grow in a healthy way over the long haul. So, though I LOVE to preach (This is an understatement. There are very few things in this world I love more than preaching God’s Word…), I knew I had to work hard to raise up other preachers to share the load. To help feed the flock, for the good of our people, the good of my family, the good of my soul, and ultimately for the glory of God.
As Lead Pastor, while I continue to preach the majority of the time, it is not uncommon to see other pastor-elders in the pulpit regularly. This is by design. This is a conviction. If you are new to Calvary Church, or have never been part of a congregation that shares the pulpit regularly between different preachers, let me briefly share 10 reasons why I believe this is so important, not only for our church but for other congregations as well...
Reason #1: Jesus is the only Hero. This is huge. Any church that is built on one preacher is vulnerable to making that individual the hero, rather than Jesus. As Jared Wilson writes, "Your church needs to know that it is the Bible properly taught that is their source of strength, not a particular man and only that man teaching it. This is the inner error in many video venue enterprises. Some will say the satellite would not be viable without the "celebrity" preacher preaching, in which case I think it could be argued that if it could not survive without a particular person's voice, it is not viable to begin with. (What happens if that pastor has a heart attack? Does every satellite shut down? Or do they just play old videos?).” Calvary Church always has been and always will be Jesus' church. The spotlight is His, not some pastor.
Reason #2: Obedience to Scripture. Calvary Church Englewood (along with all of our church plants) is led by a plurality of pastor-elders as taught in the New Testament. Not one. Multiple pastor-elders. The Scripture teaches that it is the responsibility of all the pastor-elders to preach and teach the Word of God to the flock, not just one individual (see Acts 6, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1). This is a shared calling and responsibility. Sharing the pulpit in this way is about obedience to the Word and the way God wants His church to be led.
Reason #3: Setting the church up well for the future. A shared pulpit helps to assure that when the main preacher leaves or dies, the church remains steady and in a healthy spot to continue making disciples and planting churches. As leaders, we must be looking to the future. Our philosophy and practice of preaching now will radically affect how our churches look and function 5, 10, 20 years from now.
Reason #4: Allows pastor-elders to eat (spiritually speaking)! One of the great joys and blessings in my own spiritual life is sitting in the pew and feasting on the preached Word as it is delivered by one of our other pastor-elders. I love seeing and hearing them preach to our congregation, but I also love being able to eat the Word they are preaching for my own soul. This is critical for the spiritual health of all of our pastor-elders.
Reason #5: Family leadership and discipleship. It's a joy to sit with my wife and kids and hear the Word of God preached, together as a family. As I feast myself, I also love the opportunity to help my family feast. Helping my kids learn how to listen to a sermon effectively is part of my calling as their father and spiritual leader. Along with our other pastor-elders, I am only able to do this in a shared preaching model.
Reason #6: Needed time for other pastoral duties. Weeks where I am not preaching allow me to spend more focused attention on other vital aspects to my ministry and leadership including pastoral care, vision and strategy, mentoring, preaching and teaching prep, denominational responsibilities, etc. As our church has grown, these important areas of ministry need more of my time and attention as the lead pastor.
Reason #7: Pacing for long-term leadership health. Any preacher will tell you. Sermon prep is a joyful yet agonizing process. It takes incredible mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy every week. I typically spend around 20 hours a week preparing my sermons. Moreover, I preach hard for 40-45 minutes at 3 different services on a weekend. Over time, this will take a toll on a preacher if there is not a shared preaching model in place. I hope, by God's grace, to pastor and lead at Calvary for many years to come. If this is to happen, I cannot crush myself by not sharing the pulpit with other pastor-elders. No one can do this alone for the long-term in a healthy way.
Reason #8: The blessing of hearing a variety of unified voices in the pulpit. A shared pulpit allows our congregation to be fed by different pastor-elders, each with unique personalities and giftings. There is not one preacher who will connect with everyone in the same way in the same congregation. A shared preaching model helps our congregation to value and experience a variety of preachers, all committed to loving and shepherding God's people through the faithful, expositional preaching of God's Word.
Reason #9: Helping pastor-elders grow as preachers. As with all members of our church body, we must intentionally seek to equip and develop pastor-elders in using their gifts, specifically in the area of preaching and teaching. The last thing I (or our congregation for that matter) want to be complicit in is wasting the God-given preaching and teaching gifts of our pastor-elders.
Reason #10: It stirs up in me (and our other preachers) fresh passion and joy to preach. I have found that sharing the pulpit allows the Holy Spirit to refresh my heart and my mind on weeks I am not preaching. When I have a week or two off from preaching, I have time to remember why this calling to preach is so important and what a joy and privilege it is to feed God's people from His Word! This always spurs me on toward renewed zeal, joy, and excitement to get back in the pulpit and swing for the fences for God's glory and the good of His people!
In conclusion, we highly value the preaching of God’s Word at Calvary Church. We take it seriously. We desire to feed our people really well from the pulpit each and every weekend, by God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit. For us to do this in a long haul, sustainable manner, a shared, team preaching model must be both a conviction and practice for us. This is not my pulpit. This is not the pulpit of any one pastor. This is the pulpit of one Savior. This is Jesus' pulpit. May His Name alone be made famous from it.